FORT CAMPBELL – Andre Lucas Elementary was recently named an exemplary high-performing school, earning a U.S. Department of Education 2021 National Blue Ribbon Schools award. It is the latest school on the installation to receive the award, adding to a long history of Fort Campbell educational institutions receiving the award since 1988.
Every year the Department of Education recognizes excellent schools across the nation in one of two performance areas – exemplary high-performing schools that are among their state’s best with the highest testing scores in language arts and math over a three-year period; or exemplary achievement gap closing schools that are among their states most successful in closing achievement gaps among their students.
A limited number of schools receive the award annually. This year only 325 of the nearly 140,000 K-12 schools in the United States received the prestigious recognition.
Steven Gardner, school principal, said receiving the award confirms all the hard work Andre Lucas Elementary staff has put into students has paid off.
“At Andre Lucas Elementary School we believe that working through the PLC [Professional Learning Communities] process has led to our success,” Gardner said. “Each team meets weekly and develops lesson plans with high-level cognitive demand tasks and differentiated instruction. Teachers teach at the level of each student so that each child receives instruction at the level where they will be challenged and can experience success.”
Should interventions become necessary to help a student, he said, that student is monitored for progress to see if interventions put in place are working and if not, different interventions will be tried until the student masters necessary standards.
Jennifer Nickel, a first-grade teacher at Andre Lucas Elementary, in her fifth year of teaching there, believes the success Andre Lucas Elementary has had in the classroom could be attributed not only to good teaching, but also to the personal attention staff give to each child in caring about their emotional and social well-being.
“We focus on the whole student, so we’re able to see the growth academically more than we would if we were just shoving standards and skills down their throat all day,” Nickel said.
Teachers make an effort to ask their students how they are feeling each morning, how their weekends had been spent, how their home life is and any issues they may be having that they may need to talk about, she said.
Keeping the child’s emotional state in mind is part of being successful in the classroom, she said.
“Sometimes they just need someone to talk to who is an unbiased party,” Nickel said.
The emotional development of a child is just as important as their intellectual development and paying attention to each student’s well-being can help them excel in the classroom, Gardner said.
“Doing what is right for children and helping each child shows tremendous growth not only academically, but socially and emotionally as well,” he said.
Joshua Adams, Kentucky Community Superintendent, Department of Defense Education Activity Americas Southeast District, said the award is evidence the staff at Andre Lucas Elementary approached education as a team.
“We are so proud to have another National Blue Ribbon School on Fort Campbell,” Adams said. “It is a real testament to the effort and commitment of our educators, students, Families and school leaders. These awards are not given for the effort of one. They come to great teams that work together for our children.”
Other on-post schools that have been recognized as Blue Ribbon Schools in the past include Mahaffey Middle School (1991 and 2000), Fort Campbell High School (1993 and 2002), Marshall Elementary School (1992), Jackson Elementary School (1988) and North Middle School (1989).
Teachers were excited to see their efforts recognized through the award.
“We pour our hearts and souls into these kids and to have any kind of recognition at all just makes us feel over the moon,” Nickel said.
With or without the award, aiming for excellence in education is a goal teachers pursue in the classroom daily, Gardner said.
“We are incredibly proud of our entire school for their achievement, but even without this honor it is what we strive for every day,” Gardner said.
In a press release issued by DODEA, Thomas M. Brady, DODEA director, said the award is a testament to the hard work on the part of both students and staff.
“I am very proud of our newest National Blue Ribbon schools,” Brady said. “These are all exemplary institutions and reflect the dedication of our students and educators to achieve excellence around the world.”
The National Blue Ribbon School award was only possible because everyone did their part, including teachers, students and parents, Gardner said.
“It means that our teachers, faculty and staff are doing what it takes for each child to be successful,” he said. “It also means that our students are working exceptionally hard at mastering each standard and applying those standards at the depth of knowledge necessary to exceed expectations on all assessments. Our parents are a large part of this achievement as well in that they do an exceptional job at preparing their children to come to school prepared and ready to learn.”